Ivory & Pine welcomes a guest post from Tessa Martin, owner and psychologist at Serenity Now Wellness Center in Calgary, Alberta.
There is growing evidence that the mind and body exist separately. While the two were initially treated as one, new studies show that it is possible for one to exist or act without the other. The mind, in particular, can cause you to act inappropriately.
The fight and flight response is a perfect example. In fight and flight responses, the mind begins preparing for “flight” at the lightest evidence of perceived threat. What usually causes this is that the limbic system, the area of our brain that initiates fight and flight responses, cannot distinguish real danger from excessive stress. So, exposure to past experiences, even experiences that may not harm you in the present, may cause the limbic system to trigger the fight and flight response.
Once the fight and flight system is activated, we begin to perceive everything around us as a threat. Our thinking becomes distorted and fear takes control.
At the physical level, this reaction can cause nerve cells to release chemicals such as noradrenaline, adrenaline and cortisol into our system thus altering homeostasis (balance within the body). From that point, your body will also begin preparing for threat. This explains why when we are stressed we start blaming everyone and everything for our misfortunes.
To overcome these fears and regain balance, you need mind-body healing. A therapist with sufficient experience should be in a position to help you restore a deeper connection between your body and mind for a more satisfying life.
The basis of mind and body techniques is to train the mind to fully focus on the present. These techniques can help take your mind away from the pain and disappointments that you faced earlier or those that await you in the future, and solely focus on gaining the most from the present. As such, through these techniques, you can strengthen your mental muscle of positive thinking and by so doing learn to live through the most trying moments in life.
There are more than 20 mind and body healing techniques in use today. A counselor can help you determine which techniques would prove most helpful depending on your condition. Nevertheless, below are the seven most common techniques that any therapist often wants to begin with;
Considered the core of mind-body healing, mindfulness means paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. Instead of letting your mind wander, being mindful requires that you live in the moment and keep any distracting thoughts at bay. In addition to paying full attention to what is around you, you are also required to accept and tolerate the present as it is.
Using the mindfulness technique, you will quickly realize how the mind can be filled with worry, fear, and judgment, sometimes for no reason. The more you pay attention to these fearful patters, the more control you’ll gain over them.
Massage offers real health benefits, so much so that it is now a standard practice in most conventional hospitals across Calgary and Canada in general. Along with promoting relaxation, and improving your sense of well-being, massage has also been proven to relieve pains (associated with migraines, labor, cancer, etc.), reduce stress (as well as anxiety and depression), decrease symptoms of PMS, relieve arthritis by improving joint flexibility, and relax soft injured/overused muscles.
It has also been found to stimulate the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals. Endorphins reduce levels of stress and can minimize damaging effects of depression such as slow heart rate and raised blood pressure.
For over 2,000 years now, Tai Chi has been used by the Chinese people to relax their minds and regain focus. Tai Chi is a branch of Qigong exercises that harness the qi (life energy). The technique has been associated with numerous health benefits including improvements in quality of life in persons with Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer. It also improves sleep and has thus been used to treat conditions such as insomnia.
Body and Mind therapists call it meditation in motion because Tai Chi takes your body though a range of motions that improve focus while keeping away negative thoughts.
There are many breathing techniques to consider. Two common ones that are quite powerful are the 4-7-8 technique and the Butekyo breathing method.
In the 4-7-8, you breathe in silently through the nose to the count of four, hold your breath to the count of seven, and exhale through your mouth to the count of eight. With the Butekyo breathing method, you take a small breath through the nose followed by a small breath out. Then, hold your nose for five seconds to hold your breath, release the nose, and then breathe normally for ten seconds. These two breathing techniques can activate our parasympathetic nervous systems, inducing a relaxation response.
Most of us already know about yoga. What you may not know is how beneficial this simple technique is to the human mind and body. At the physical level, yoga combines stretching exercises, controlled breathing, and relaxation to reduce stress, improve heart function, and lower blood pressure.
At the mental level, the high level of focus achieved during yoga can have a myriad of benefits. It helps the body relax and better manage stress and anxiety. It also improves mild depression, sleep problems, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Yoga also reduces levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, and growth factors.
Visualization and imagery, what some psychologists call guided imagery, offers yet another avenue for mind-body healing. Guided imagery involves creation of a detailed mental image of an attractive and peaceful setting, the main aim being to associate the sensations of relaxation with the peaceful visual image.
This technique is so effective because it also helps to guide us away from our fears and anxieties towards an alternative focus. The trick is that the mind can’t tell the difference! Your mind won’t know that the images you’re creating in your mind aren’t real. To the brain, it will appear as though you’re indeed in that quiet, peaceful setting. This can have a huge implication on our physical and mental well-being.
The biofeedback technique
Finally, biofeedback is a method used to tell the mind to control a body function that the body normally controls such as heart rate, muscle tension, blood pressure, and skin temperature. When first getting started with biofeedback, your therapist will attach monitoring devices to provide instant feedback on a body function such as your skin temperature.
The technique is widely used to control problems related to stress or blood flow. Once you’ve mastered it, you can use your mind to relieve mild headaches, back pain, fibromyalgia, and sleep disorders.
Thank you to Tessa for sharing her clinical expertise with Ivory & Pine! As always, if you loved this post, stick around for a bit, read on, and give it a share. For more Ivory & Pine, subscribe below!
A Master of Counseling and Psychology and owner of Serenity Now Wellness Center, Tessa Burns Martin is a compassionate and highly experienced Calgary psychologist with a deep understanding of depression counseling, anger management, drug and alcohol addiction counseling, and stress trauma & post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. Book an appointment today and let Tessa take you through a journey of self-healing where you become aware of your anxieties and learn to take control of your fears.